What do quilters do when they travel? Find new quilt shops! On a recent
trip to Colorado, I was pleasantly surprised to find, in the tiny town of Leadville (population 3,000),
a bonanza not of silver or gold but of fabric and inspiration! Two quilt shops are perched high in the
Rocky Mountains with a spectacular view of the surrounding peaks. Both shops are very different but
well worth a trip if you’re visiting nearby.
Housed in a quaint Victorian building is Gwen Shepherd’s Mountain Top
Quilts where, as Gwen says, “I sell everything old.” The shop is an intriguing bazaar of quilts and
textiles from the past. An old enameled stove keeps the entire shop toasty and antique dressers and
cupboards are crammed with quilt tops, quilts, pillowcases, and tea towels. She also offers old buttons,
vintage sewing notions and embellishments for sale. And, if you want your quilted projects to have
that antique look, Gwen also has fabric yardage dating from 1920 to 1950. And, she does a “landmine”
mail order business for her loyal customers.
Mountain Top Quilts also sells “kit” quilts, finished or as
quilt tops. This summer, seven of Gwen’s own “kit” quilts were exhibited in Golden, Colorado, at
the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.
Colorado mining lore is fascinating. A few blocks away is Jane Crocker’s
Mt. Elbert Patchwork, located in the former Odd Fellows Hall near the Vandome Hotel, and built by
Senator Horace Tabor, once immensely wealthy. One of the infamous tales about Senator Tabor was his divorce
and remarriage to “Baby” Doe. As often happened in mining stories, the Tabors went from rags to riches—their
child’s christening gown cost $15,000 but Baby Doe died a pauper. When Jane’s husband retired, they moved to
Leadville and, searching for something to do in a small town, she opened Mt. Elbert Patchwork. The shop is
known for a large collection of flannels, homespun fabrics and batiks.
A highlight of Mt. Elbert Patchwork is the original designs by Ralph Kitenbil.
He has a delightful array of appliqué patterns featuring mining scenes and mountain views. If you want a “quilty”
souvenir from Colorado, his patterns are unique and very special.
Not just for quilters, Leadville boasts several attractions for everyone in all
seasons. The golf course is the highest in the United States and every shot goes farther because the air is
so thin! We took a train to the Climax Mine, now closed. The tracks cling to the side of a mountain; the
views are breathtaking. In winter, skiing and snow sports bring thousands to Colorado. Leadville is 100
miles from Denver and 40 miles from Vail.
For further information:
Mountain Top Quilts
129 E. 7th St.
Leadville, Colo. 80461
Mt. Elbert Patchwork
Leadville, Colo. 80461
©2004 Hallye Bone